How Deep Brain Stimulation Set William Free From The Effects Of Parkinson’s

William Stark was too young to feel so old.

In 2002, at age 47, William was diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that causes shaking, difficulty walking and problems with movement. For a decade, he tried different medications to control his muscle shaking, but the symptoms worsened.

William Stark, cropped

William Stark, with his wife, Brenda, is able to control the effects of Parkison’s disease much better now after undergoing a deep brain stimulation procedure.

“When your medication is working really well, they say you’re ‘on,’ and when it’s not working, you’re ‘off,’” he explains.

“For me, there were no signs before I’d go off. It was like turning on a switch—it was instantaneous. I’d be in a grocery store and, boom, just freeze, not able to move.”

By 2012, he felt like a prisoner: “I was 50-something, and I was locked in my house; I couldn’t drive and I could hardly do any work outside, because what if I fell?”

When medications stop working

That’s when William saw a news story about deep brain stimulation (DBS) procedures, in which patients are implanted with a tiny device that sends electrical pulses to specific areas of the brain to stop muscle tremors.

He studied the procedure and, with support and encouragement from his wife, Brenda, and four children, underwent deep brain stimulation surgery on the left side of his brain (which controls the right side of his body) at University of Minnesota Medical Center in 2013.

During the six-hour surgery to implant the electrodes into his brain, William was conscious, his head completely stabilized in a metal frame.

Four weeks later, a battery pack was implanted in his chest (much like a pacemaker), and electricity began flowing to the electrodes, controlling his muscle movements.

“After the first surgery, I knew I’d do it again for my left side, for sure, because it worked so well,” he says.

Creating a more comfortable experience

The second time around, this past April, William sought the help of neurosurgeon Paul Gigante, MD, at the Spine and Brain Clinic at Fairview Southdale Hospital. 

Paul Gigante, MD

Paul Gigante, MD

Paul is one of only a handful of surgeons in the state who performs deep brain stimulation procedures and the only surgeon in the region who performs the procedure frameless.

While other doctors put a frame around the patient’s head to stabilize it during the procedure, Paul uses only a mini-frame around the localized area of the skull, which is less confining and more comfortable for patients.

“Eliminating the ‘halo’ that holds the patient’s head perfectly still eliminates time spent in the operating room, and allows them the freedom to move during the operation, instead of being locked into a headframe,” Paul says.

“Since the whole surgery is done while patients are awake, this is much more comfortable and is a shorter, more pleasant experience.”

A little help from Fairview Foundation’s friends

The “frameless” procedure requires perfect precision and, thanks to a generous grant to the Fairview Foundation, Paul and his team can perform it faster and easier than ever before.

Through a nearly $68,000 donation to the Fairview Foundation by an anonymous donor, Fairview Southdale Hospital was able to purchase a deep brain stimulation StealthStation S7, a machine that merges multiple images of the patient’s brain (such as CT and MRI scans) to pinpoint exactly where the electrodes need to be placed.

“Because of this generous grant, the work of Dr. Gigante and our entire care team, we have been able to expand our neurosurgical services to include this life-changing procedure,” says Dana Quinn, director of orthopedics, neuroscience and business development.

“As a result, Fairview is able to do more for the patients and communities we serve than ever before.”

Having undergone both the traditional and the frameless DBS procedure, William can attest to the benefits of the StealthStation.

“The day before the procedure, [Paul] put six tiny screws in my head, which he used as a GPS guide during the surgery, rather than a halo,” William says. “I was much more comfortable and it only took about 2.5 hours. There was no pain, just a little numbness.”

‘It’s much, much better’

Today, William’s life looks drastically different than it did a few years ago.

“I’m working a part-time job now. I can mow the lawn again. I can drive,” he says. “I take one-eighth the medications I took before. I feel confident, going somewhere, that I won’t freeze up. I never really have ‘off’ time now. I can’t do everything I could before, but it’s much, much better.”

And his sense of humor hasn’t gone anywhere.

“The neurologist’s team gave me a little remote to control the power to my electrodes, so I can adjust it a little bit… but I never give it to my wife—she can freeze me up for the whole day!” he jokes.

The hope is that the StealthStation will increase Paul’s capacity for DBS patients, because the need is growing.

“There are between 1,800 and 3,500 people in Minnesota who are candidates for this procedure and only a handful of doctors who perform it,” says Dana Gillespie, director of institutional giving for the Fairview Foundation.

“Dr. Gigante is going to be an incredibly busy person.”

Get the Facts on Ebola

While the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports the risk of Ebola in Minnesota continues to remain low, media reports from Dallas may be causing additional concern.

Fairview is committed to the safety of staff, patients and visitors and has created an Ebola preparedness plan with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and MDH.

Ebola Virus Image

What is it?

Ebola virus is spread by direct contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids or by contact with contaminated objects or infected animals.

Symptoms may include sudden onset of fever and malaise, achiness, headache, vomiting or diarrhea.

You can learn more about Ebola from the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.

Any patient with a possible infectious disease will be asked about his or her travel history, and special screening tools and precautions may be used.

Guidance for travelers

Many Minnesota residents may travel to or have relatives visit from West Africa.

Although the incubation period for Ebola can be as long as 21 days, neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the MDH recommend that people refrain from going back to work after travel to these countries.

However, pay attention to your own health after returning from West Africa and follow these guidelines from the CDC:

  1. Monitor your health for 21 days if you were in an area with an Ebola outbreak but were not in contact with blood or body fluids, items that have come in contact with blood or body fluids, animals or raw meat, or hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated.
  2. Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes.
  3. Call ahead and tell your doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you visit a clinic or emergency department. Advance notice will help your doctor care for you and protect other people at the clinic or emergency department.

Is it the flu?

Keep in mind, many of the symptoms of Ebola are similar to those of influenza. As we enter another flu season, it’s far more likely that symptoms will be flu-related and not Ebola, unless you have come in direct contact with an Ebola patient.

It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine. Fairview offers vaccinations at Fairview Clinics, Fairview Express Care and select Fairview Pharmacies.

Fairview Clinics Trade Halloween Candy for New Books

Halloween is just around the corner and trick-or-treating is on the minds of Twin Cities families. Children may be excited about treats, but parents are worried about too many sweets affecting their kid’s health.


Participating Fairview clinics will give a book to each child who donates their unopened Halloween candy. The candy will be sent to military personnel serving overseas.

Last year the program resulted in a sweet haul. More than 1,395 pounds of candy was distributed to troops.

Children will receive a new book in exchange for their donation.

Kids can exchange their candy any time the clinic is open from Monday, Nov. 3, through Friday, Nov. 7. Visit to find the hours for your location.



21 Fairview Clinics are participating in the exchange:

Apple Valley
Bass Lake
Bloomington, Oxboro
Bloomington Lake, Minneapolis
Bloomington Lake, Xerxes
Brooklyn Park
Elk River
Maple Grove
North Branch
Pine City
Rush City


Help make Give to the Max Day a success!

Give to the Max Day was created in 2009 to launch GiveMN, a collaborative venture led by Minnesota Community Foundation and many other organizations committed to helping make our state a better place.


Each year, Give to the Max Day helps Minnesotans come together to support their favorite charities. Last year, more than 52,000 donors logged on to and gave over $17.1 million to Minnesota charities in just 24 hours!

How You Can Help

As a nonprofit organization, Fairview is excited to participate in Give to the Max Day on November 13th. The dollars we raise make a real difference for the people we serve. Showing your support is easy! We have created Give to the Max Day toolkits that have everything you need to spread the word. Take action on your social media channels by changing your Facebook cover photo or send an e-mail using the provided template.

Our Focus Areas:

This year’s fundraising focuses on two great project areas including:

  • Fairview’s Youth Grief Services: Children and families find hope and healing at Youth Grief Services, thanks to the generosity of heroes like you. Our program offers free support groups, education, camps and more for children and families in our community rocked by profound loss. Toolkit:

Take action today and support Fairview Health Services on Give to the Max Day!

Fairview Provides Free Influenza Vaccinations to the Underserved

Since 2006, Fairview has been providing influenza vaccinations at no charge to underserved children and adults through a community-based collaboration.

Nurse gives flu vaccination.

Mickey Chick, RN, a Fairview nurse, provides a flu vaccination at a MINI clinic at the Tibetan Foundation in Minneapolis.

Fairview’s Minnesota Immunization Networking Initiative (MINI) is a national model for partnering with ethnic and faith communities to help immunize people.

Flu clinics just started this month. Here is a list of about 90 MINI clinics being held this flu season in the greater metro area. The clinics also offer pneumococcal vaccinations for people 65 and over and those with chronic medical conditions.

Over the years, MINI has provided more than 52,000 vaccinations. In 2013, MINI provided vaccinations to 8,743 people at 147 flu shot clinics in multicultural settings across the greater Twin Cities and in Princeton, Minn.

Funding for MINI comes from grants from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health and Fairview Foundation—with additional support from Fairview.

Fairview’s mission in action

“This is a perfect example of Fairview’s mission in action,” says Pat Peterson, director of MINI and Fairview faith community outreach manager. “Our mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve—and that’s what MINI does.”

“To reach out to the community and be one-on-one with people is very rewarding,” says Maineng, RN, PHN, a nurse case manager for Fairview Partners who has volunteered at about five MINI clinics each of the past two years.

“Maineng is one of about 60 health care professionals from Fairview who donate their time each year as volunteer vaccinators,” says Paula McNabb, who trains and coordinates Fairview volunteers in the MINI clinics. “We simply could not do this without them.”

Recognized as a model

Flu shot being given at clinic.

Maineng Vang, RN, PHN, a Fairview nurse case manager, gives a flu shot to a woman at the Karen Organization of Minnesota.

MINI has been recognized as a national model for community partnership and replicated elsewhere. It was featured in the Minnesota Hospital Association’s 2013 Community Benefit Report. (See page 6.)

Our MINI clinics follow standards set by the Minnesota Department of Health Mark of Excellence program for community vaccinators.

Key partners with Fairview in MINI include St. Mary’s Health Clinics, Stairstep Foundation, Homeland Health Specialists, Open Cities Health Center, River Valley Nursing Center, American Indian Community Development Corporation and the Minnesota Department of Health. Many other community groups also actively help out.

“The success of MINI hinges on this collaboration of diverse organizations all working together to improve immunization rates among underserved populations,” says Peterson. “None of us could do this alone.”